Good Evening to the People Living in the Camp by Joost Conijn takes visitors to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen to deserted areas on the edge of Europe. On an old airfield, patrolled by military, Joost Conijn crawls through a hole in the fence. Planes can no longer take off here and people live in tattered white tents on and alongside the runway. Conijn is going in search of the people he has read so much about in the papers. He wants to meet them, to see who they are. He films them, without focussing on a single person, and seems uninterested in tales of hardship.
Some people are catching fish, and as night falls, smoky fires keep the insects at bay. Some sit contemplating their lot in silence; others prepare a secret plan for the night. The precise details – the beginning and end – are withheld from us. A child stokes the flames with a cardboard box. When the soldiers do their rounds, Conijn has to hide in a tent. ‘We’ll defend you with our lives,’ say the men who help to conceal him.
Joost Conijn’s most recent video work, Good Evening to the People Living in the Camp, is being shown as part of an installation in the museum’s Serra gallery. The work introduces us to people in the camps in Europe’s border zones. Conijn has filmed in camps where recording is forbidden and therefore dangerous. His perspective is not the immediate drama, but the everyday lives of these unknown characters from the news.
Joost Conijn (1971) is a visual artist. He achieved fame with his film about his self-built wooden car (Wood Car, 2002): a generator of unforeseen encounters on his journey through remote areas of Eastern Europe. Earlier, in 1997, he built a gate in the Sahara desert that opened automatically when he drove his car towards it (C’est une hek). In 2004, he filmed seven children from a neighbouring family who grew up as wolf children, unconcerned by social conventions (Siddieqa, Firdaus, Abdallah, Soelayman, Moestafa, Hawwa en Dzoel-kifl). In 2010, Conijn built his own aircraft and flew it across the heart of Africa, sending weekly reports to the NRC Handelsblad from countries such as Chad, the Central African Republic and Uganda. These reports were collected in the book Piloot van goed en kwaad (Pilot of Good and Evil).
The value of the unforeseen
Joost Conijn chooses to travel to areas where others do not venture or which are difficult to reach. For him, the joy of travel resides in the unforeseen events along the way. It is this adventure and the encounters with others that form the core of his work.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen showed Joost Conijn’s work during the Eco Marathon (2012) and presented his first one-man show in the Netherlands under the title Joost Conijn Solo (2007). This exhibition was a survey of his work to date, including five videos, his crashed aircraft and his wood-burning car. Joost Conijn won the Charlotte Köhler Prize for young visual artists in 2000 and the Cobra Art Prize in 2005. He was nominated for the Prix de Rome in 2005. His work has been exhibited at the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, the Lisson Gallery in London, Ibid Projects in Vilnius, Manifesta in Ljubljana, the Venice Biennale, Kunsthalle Luzern, Apexart in New York, the Palais du Tokyo in Paris, the National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Moscow and Galleria Zero in Milan.